September 15, 2013 marked my first 10 years of being in full time ministry. Being a pastor’s kid I technically feel like I’ve been in ministry for much much longer but these last 10 years have been me out on my own serving Jesus. I’ve been doing some reflecting lately on those ten years of ministry. Perhaps it’s because one of my favorite 11 year olds from the student ministry at the church I interned at got married this summer. I flew myself to his wedding and danced my socks off. My favorite part was the hug and the “I’m so glad you came, you’re my favorite”.
Or maybe I’m nostalgic because the first kid I ever baptized got engaged and I got to meet his sweet fiancé. Not only will I be attending that wedding in November but I was told, “Miss Melissa, you’re on the guest list under “my family””. Sniff.
Or maybe it’s because I got to hug and chat with a group of seniors in high school that I have been “Miss Mel” to for over 8 years.
Whatever the reason for the reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a tiny bit of wisdom to share after 10 years. Where better to start but with mistakes? I don’t care how long you were a pastor’s kid, how many years you spent in college, or how many books you’ve read, you will make mistakes. It’s inevitable. Of course, what you do with those mistakes is what really matters. So while I don’t love admitting my failures I do love learning from them and seeing how God has redeemed them.
I wish I was one of those bloggers who was organized and detailed and could promise you this would be a 6 part blog with 3 mistakes and 3 successes. But I’m not, and I can’t. I’ve come to grips that I’m much less organized than I would like to be. At least I can admit it. Success! So stay tuned, who knows what this might become.
Mistake #1 I focused too much on the outcome and not enough on the process.
Oh how I wish I could get back those moments I spent focused on molding Jesus robots out of the kids entrusted to my care. Forgetting about their hearts I bulldozed forward with all the grace of a bull in a china shop in my unswerving desire to see the behavior that I thought pointed to heart change.
Sounds harsh right?
I think in light of kids ages 4-14 being the largest unreached people group in the world and in light of our millennial crisis I am allowed to be harsh.
I thought if kids knew the books of the Bible (bonus points if they knew the song!), knew each disciple’s name, knew the scriptures for the bridge illustration, and could spit it all out on demand (especially when the parents or senior pastor was looking) then I was doing my job with excellence.
8-10 years later I see the effects of that flawed thinking. My legacy from that time is young adults who have knowledge and information but don’t have a heart tie to their Savior. They know the right things to say but the words without conviction are as empty as their eyes. I grieve over that and probably always will. I readily tear up and take them before my Savior as I watch them grow up over Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, choosing to walk away from the God I so desired for them to love. My heart was in the right place but my methods were off base.
I cling with hope to the God I serve and know to be the great Redeemer and Rescuer. He’s not done with them yet, I know it!
What a gracious and merciful God we serve who so beautifully takes my mistakes and creates beauty. I’ve learned from this mistake #1. In fact, I began learning early on in ministry and completely shifted how I was teaching kids. Relationships with other kids and solid adults, encounters with Jesus and his Word, and moments for kids to learn from Him took precedence over lists of books, behavior modification, and rote memorization.
The fruits of my last 6-8 years of ministry is vastly different from the early years. Teenagers, college students, and young adults who are loving and serving and following hard after Jesus. That’s the legacy I love. But I refuse to ignore that earlier legacy and admit it here with full disclosure. I was so wrapped up in my own pride and image that I forgot to show kids the heart of Jesus. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn from my mistake?
Focus more on the process of kids falling in love with Jesus first and foremost, that outcome you desire will most likely follow.
Less about you and more about Him.